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4.21 Geographical terms

(a) Capitalize the names of countries, regions, counties, cities and other official and specified political, administrative and geographical divisions and topographical features:

  • El Salvador
  • the Northern Hemisphere
  • the International Boundary
  • the Prairies
  • the Canadian Shield
  • the Maritimes
  • the Atlantic provinces
  • the Ontario Region (sector of government department)
  • the Crow’s Nest Pass
  • the Grassy Narrows Reserve
  • the Pacific
  • Lanark County
  • Sherbrooke
  • Pickle Lake
  • Elm Street West
  • the Okanagan Valley
  • the South Saskatchewan River
  • the Northwest Territories

(b) Capitalize a generic term when it is an accepted short form of the proper noun:

  • the Continent
  • the States

(c) Do not capitalize a generic term such as city, county, state or province when it precedes the proper noun or stands alone, unless it is used in a corporate sense:

  • She lives in the city of Regina. (place)
  • I have travelled all over the province of Ontario. (place)
  • The states of Switzerland are called cantons.

but

  • Buy Province of Ontario bonds. (provincial government)
  • The City of Regina took him to court. (municipal government)
  • The State of New York has revamped its social assistance programs. (state government)

(d) Do not capitalize a generic term used in the plural unless it is part of a geographical name:

  • lakes Huron and Ontario
  • the Thompson and Fraser rivers

but

  • the Rocky Mountains
  • the South Seas

(e) In general, do not capitalize the names of compass points or similar descriptive terms unless they have taken on political or other connotations or form the titles of administrative regions:

  • northern New Brunswick
  • the west of Saskatchewan

but

  • the West
  • Western values
  • the Far North
  • the Eastern Townships
  • Northern Ireland

(f) Some terms are capitalized when they refer to specific regions and lower-cased when used descriptively:

  • the East Coast but the east coast of Nova Scotia
  • Arctic Ocean but arctic conditions